A SWITCH OF REALITIES – BY TOM CURLEY

Marilyn asked me to dig this one up from the archives. It took me a while to find it. It was written quite a while ago. If I didn’t tell you this you would swear it was brand new. Unless you don’t swear. But really, who doesn’t swear? At least once in a while. There was my Aunt Helen, no wait. She could cuss like sailor …

Sorry, I got distracted.

I think if we suggested this now, everybody would go along with it. Including the idiot-in-chief. It’s the “get out of the White House without going to jail card”  he’s been looking for. The “get out of this insane reality card” we’ve all been waiting for.


I figured it out!

The solution!

To reality!

This reality!

This reality TV reality!


The problem is not so much that we are living in a reality TV reality. The problem is that we’re living in a REALLY BAD reality TV reality. Face it, it’s just not working folks.

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Do you know what does work? Fictional TV reality! Think about it. There’s a show on TV today called “Designated Survivor.” In it, the whole U.S. government is blown up during a State of the Union Address.  The Executive Branch, the Congress, the Supreme Court, all gone. The one cabinet member that has to stay home becomes the President. He has to rebuild the entire government from the ground up. And while he’s doing that, there’s a mysterious cabal,  the ones responsible  for blowing everybody up, that’s also trying to take over the country. In spite of all that, their government and their President are doing a hell of a lot better job than ours!

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So here’s what we do.  Let’s just switch realities! It’s a win-win for everybody. How do we do this? Simple.

First: The current administration leaves the government and instead, goes on real TV 24 hours a day. On Fox News. They all go to work on sets that look just like Washington, D.C.  They do the exact same things they do now. It will be just like on  “Big Brother”. Only bigger. And on Fox News.

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They can pass laws, write executive orders, cancel health insurance for the whole nation, cut taxes for billionaires, eliminate “Meals On Wheels” or just kick puppies. Whatever they want! And here’s the best part. Trump supporters won’t be upset because they only watch Fox News. As far as they’ll be concerned, everything is normal.

It just isn’t real.

“And it’s only on Fox.”

Second: OK, great you say. But what about real reality? Who’s going to be the real President? The real cabinet?

Here’s who. Real honest to God fictional ones.

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And the cool part is, we have a lot of options. We have lots of choices for President. We could have Jeb Bartlett. He was a great President. Don’t believe me? Watch “The West Wing.” It’s on Netflix, the whole series, all seven seasons.

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We’ve got Dennis Haysbert. I’m pretty sure he was President twice.

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We’ve got Morgan Freeman. Not only was he President, but he was also God!

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And the list goes on. Michael Douglas, Kevin Kline, Jack Nicholson, Peter Sellers … (Oh, for God’s sake, Google the rest.) You get my point.

Now, appointing a cabinet becomes fun!

Secretary of State? How about Tia Leoni? She’s already Secretary of State and seems to be doing a pretty decent job of it. Every Sunday. Let’s give her the job for the rest of the week.

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Attorney General? Julianna Margulies. She’s a lawyer, ran for State’s Attorney and by almost all accounts, is a good wife.

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Secretary of Defense? Well I admit, at first, I was leaning toward Schwarzenegger or Stallone. Then it hit me.

CHUCK NORRIS! Think about it. We could cut the military budget down to nothing. Nobody’s going to go to war with us. Nobody fucks with Chuck Norris!

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ISIS COMMANDER: We will destroy America!

ISIS GUY WATCHING THE NEWS: Sir, America just made Chuck Norris Secretary of Defense.

ISIS COMMANDER:  Shit.


(Insert favorite Chuck Norris joke here. My favorite? Chuck Norris once counted to infinity. Twice.)

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Department of Education? The cast of Sesame Street.

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Depart of Health and Human Services? Pick any of the stern but kindly Chiefs of Staff from the medical show of your choice. Any one of them will do just fine. (Except for Dr. Zorba. I’m pretty sure he’s dead.) (Extra points if you get that reference.)

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Department of Housing? Chris Rock. OK, he really doesn’t have any more qualifications for the job than Ben Carson does. But I just like the guy. He’s funny.

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(If you get that reference, you get double extra points.) I could go on, but you get the point.

How do we do this? Simple. We have an election. Not the usual kind. Between voter suppression, low turnouts, gerrymandering, and the Electoral College, our elections are not working out well.  I mean, seriously — that’s how we got into this mess to begin with.

So what do we do? We have an election the same way reality TV shows do it. Everybody gets to vote from their smartphone, their computer, their tablet, or Android device. You can email or text your vote. You are only allowed to vote up to 20 times on any given device. You can vote up until 10 pm Eastern Standard Time. (Text and messaging fees may apply.)

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Granted, this will fire up the Millennials and confuse the hell out of old folks. Maybe it’s unfair, but it’s still better than the Electoral College. We can set up March Madness style brackets and have an election every week for maybe a month until we get a winner. More office pools!

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And we, the people, elect everybody. The President doesn’t get to appoint his cabinet. We do.


It’s Democracy at work!

And it could work!


As a cheese-faced person who somehow actually became President of the United States said to a bunch of totally incredulous Black people a while back:

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“Give it a try. What have you got to lose?”


WE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM – Rich Paschall

When You No Longer Have a Home, Rich Paschall


Jimmy knew it was not going to be easy.  He had put it off for weeks, but after a while, the delay was just as hard as what he perceived the actual event to be.  So the high school senior marched home, mustered up all his courage, and prepared for the inevitable battle.

Born of a rather dysfunctional family, Jimmy’s parents were divorced when he was just 4 years old.  His biological father remained marginally in his life.  His mother introduced a new “step-father” when Jimmy was 5.  He was raised by ultra-conservative parents to have values of the ultra Christian right.  Unfortunately for the family structure, Jimmy did not adopt the “family values” of his rather right-wing parents.  Nonetheless, the 17-year-old boy was prepared to take a bold step forward and challenge the strict guidelines he had been given.

When he arrived home near dinner time on a cool fall evening, his parents were already watching television and absorbed in some crime drama.  At the first commercial break, Jimmy made enough noise to be noticed.

“Well, boy,” the stepdad began, “you are a bit late, but you can still grab some dinner in the kitchen.” The mother just smiled and went back to watching the television.

The teenager had already called up all his courage and was not going to back down.  The moment had come, and even though he was shaking, he began a speech he prepared all day.  “I had something important to say,” Jimmy stated rather meekly.

“Well spit it out, boy, the commercials are almost over.”

Without launching into his well-rehearsed speech about each man having to be his own and so forth, a nervous Jimmy did indeed just spit it out.  “I’m gay,’ he declared.

“What?” the middle-aged, balding, flannel-clad stereotypical alpha male shouted. At that, the mother turned down the television volume.

“What did he say, dear?  I don’t think I heard him correctly,” said the middle-aged, middle class, middle intelligence woman.

“I think he said he’s a damn faggot,” the man shouted in a loud and disgusted voice.

“No, sir,” the boy countered. “I said I am gay.”

“The same thing,” the fake dad declared.

“I am appalled.  No son of mine is going to be a sinner.”  The mother was as much angered by the “sinner” as having to miss her TV program.

The step-dad marched right up to the boy and shouted in his face, “You will stop that right now or you will get out of this house, do you understand me?”

“I am sorry sir, I can not change,” the teenager said in a trembling voice.  At that, the step-dad pushed him as hard as he could and the boy went flying over a living room chair and crashed into the dining room.

The mother then began shouting at the boy, telling him he would go to hell, that God would never forgive him, that such behavior was forbidden in the Bible and that God hated him.  The boy rose to his feet and stood there staring at the shouting parents.

“If you are not going to take back that sinful statement, then you are not staying under my roof.  Get out sinner,” the pretend dad shouted.  With that, he gave a menacing look as if he would hit the boy again.  Before long, he started after the boy and shoved him, knocking him to the floor.

“OK,” the terrified teen said.  “I’ll go if that’s what you want.  I don’t want to be here either.  I will get my school books and leave.”

“I paid for those books,” the man shouted.

“Like you are going to read them,” the teen retorted.

At that the boy hurried to his room, he put his books, a few items off his dresser and whatever items of clothing he could stuff in his backpack and headed toward the front door.

“God hates faggots, son,” his mother said with great disdain.

“I don’t know that God hates anyone,” the boy countered, “but he does not hate love.”

That prompted the step-dad to pick up an ashtray to throw at the teen, but the boy was out the door too quickly.  The angry parents resumed watching television as the trembling senior high school student walked aimlessly down the street.  Tears filled the eyes of the handsome youth as realized he had no home, no parents, and nowhere to go.

Attribution: BookCrossingBefore at the English language Wikipedia

He struggled forward, step by step, as the night air began to chill his bones.  Was he shivering because of the night air, or because of the sad situation he found himself in?  When he arrived at a major intersection, Jimmy took a seat on a wooden bench by the bus stop.  He was not planning on taking the bus.  He had no plan at all.

After many moments filled with crying, Jimmy pulled out his cell phone and called the one person he thought could help him, his real dad.  He located the number, dialed, and got a quick answer.

“Hello dad, it’s Jimmy.  I have been thrown out of the house.  I have nowhere to go.  Can I come and stay with you a while?  I promise I will not be a bother.”  The teen was not ready for adulthood, and certainly not this.

“Why, what happened son?  What would cause them to do that?”

“I told them I am gay.  Can I come there?”

There was a long silence on the phone.  Neither one spoke for what seemed like minutes.  Jimmy finally spoke up again.

“Please.”


Note:  This is a work of fiction, but there are many true stories of teens tossed aside.  What do they do?  

THE PROMISE OF LOVE – Rich Paschall

The Reality, by Rich Paschall

When George made his visit to South America to meet the handsome young man,  Jon noticed their large age difference. He decided it did not matter if George would help him.  After all, this could be a way out of his situation in the poor suburb of the large South American city. So late each night he would steal the WiFi signal from a neighbor in the apartment next door and talk with George. This way he kept him close to his heart.

South American city

Jon was tired of being poor. He was sad he could not buy nice clothes and jewelry.  He was unhappy with his dismal living conditions. He was heartbroken he could not help his mother with her expenses.  He just wanted to get out.

Since his time in an acrobatic troupe did not result in much money, Jon took one job, then another.  Nothing satisfied him as he always worked long hours for little money.  He could not spend much time at the gym.  He could not enjoy the nightlife of the nearby city.

“Help me, George,” Jon pleaded one night.  “I want to keep going to the gym.  I want to have enough food to eat.  Please send me a little money.”  Jon’s stories may have been a bit of an exaggeration, but he was certainly very poor.  He was determined to tell George whatever seemed to convince him to send some money.

“OK, Jon.  I will send you something on payday.  Do not worry.” The periodic investment in the handsome Hispanic man seemed to bind them together, as least George thought so.

Jon also thought they were bound together, not just by a few US Dollars, but also by his constant declarations of friendship and love.

When a few months had passed since George’s impulsive visit, Jon wondered if the time was right to push his plan further along.  One warm night, Jon stood on the roof of his building and looked down on the poor buildings below, with their cheap block constructions, and old metal roofs.  It was a depressing sight.

poor suburb

The bright lights of the city in the distance were a reminder he had not achieved his goal.  He could wait no longer. This was the night for action. He called George.

“We should get married, George,” Jon declared with confidence.

“What?” George said in a surprised voice that shook Jon a little.

“You should come here to marry me and we can live together in America.”  Jon waited for a reply, but there was nothing for a long minute.  Then George said Jon only wanted a way to come to America.  He did not actually want George.

The response upset Jon.  As he lay in bed in his tiny apartment, he decided he must not lose George now, after all the time he invested.  So he spent weeks declaring his love and asking for marriage without success.  George said he had no other boyfriend, so Jon did not understand why they could not be married.

When Jon felt the situation lasted too long he said to George, “You must tell me if we are boyfriends or no.  If you will not marry me, I must find another boyfriend.”

The conversation that followed last a long time, and after Jon insisted over and over he would be a good roommate and stay “as long as God wills,” George finally agreed.

Jon immediately researched what they needed to do to get married.  George gathered the documents Jon requested and sent them by express.  The papers were filed and the waiting game began.  Almost the entire summer went by before Jon got the marriage license.

George came as promised. The wedding was held with only one friend of Jon’s in attendance to take pictures, and a translator for George to know what was happening.  When the ceremony was done, George, Jon and his friend Vanessa all went into the city to celebrate.  After just two married nights together, George was gone.

return to the airport

The long process of getting a visa began.  Jon could not believe the complexity of the procedure or the number of documents he had to send to George.

“I have to get certified translations into English, Jon.  Then I will submit all.  You must be patient.”  It was hard to be patient, but George sent a little money every month and Jon could buy the food he wanted.

When the process had gone from Immigration to the State Department, to the American embassy in Jon’s country, the nervous young man met with his good friend, Vanessa.

Jon told her everything that had transpired and they seemed to be getting near a decision.

“And you will leave here to go to this strange place you have told to me?” Vanessa said.

“Yes, of course,” Jon said.  He could see the disappointment in Vanessa’s eyes.  He could not tell if this was because he might leave his close friend or because he would leave his country for a foreign land.

“Are you crazy?  You are with him only a few days and for that, you would leave us?” she asked.

“But we are working on this for a year now.  It will be my chance for a better life,” Jon said, but Vanessa replied with a look of doubt. After a short silence, she asked the important question.

“Do you think you will stay with this gringo once you get to America and meet other people?”

Jon’s eyes narrowed as he gave the matter serious thought.  He placed his right hand over his mouth and rubbed the left side of his face with his fingertips.  After almost a minute, he removed the hand from his face, smiled a little, and said, “No.  Of course not.”

Then Vanessa laughed, but only a little.

Next week: The conclusion.
Previously, in order:
I LOVE YOU (No, You Don’t)
A SOUTH AMERICAN LOVE, A Romantic Player
A SOUTH AMERICAN PROPOSAL, The Deal

A SOUTH AMERICAN PROPOSAL

The Deal, by Rich Paschall 

After meeting the younger Jon on a language learning website, and seeing him for just four days in person in South America, George was surprised that Jon acted as if they were boyfriends.  In fact, Jon asked George several times if he had a boyfriend in America.

“No,” George always said and Jon would smile.

“You should have no other boyfriend,” Jon would say.  “We are boyfriends.”

This was astounding to George.  Jon lived in South America and George, now in his 50’s, lived in a Midwestern USA city.  George was all of 30 years older and felt they could not have much in common.  But Jon kept reminding  George of his visit the previous December and what great fun they had.  This should prove their love!

A South American city

Feeling rather awkward about the whole thing, George thought that perhaps he should break off the daily chat.  He could not imagine where this relationship would go and the boyfriend talk just seemed wrong somehow.  Jon started to add that he loved George and they should be together. Then one day Jon pushed the matter a bit further.

“We should get married, George,” Jon declared.

“What?” a stunned George said.

“You should come here to marry me and we can live together in America.”

After George collected himself, he thought about what he should say.  The response was not immediately in his brain.

“You are just saying this because you want to come to America.  You do not want to marry me,” George told Jon.

“No that is not true,” Jon protested.  “I will be with you as long as God wills.”

So, the conversation continued in a similar manner for a few weeks.  Jon would ask for marriage, and George would say “no.”

As time went on Jon seemed to be winning George over to his side, so he demanded an answer one more time.  “You must tell me if we are boyfriends or no.  If you will not marry me, I must find another boyfriend.”

On the one hand, George could not imagine this was a great idea; on the other, he suddenly felt he did not want to lose Jon.  They did indeed have a good time together and maybe they would make good roommates.  Perhaps Jon really would stay “as long as God wills.”  So they reached an agreement and the deal was made.

The South American destination

To be married in the South American country, George had to send documents with certified Spanish translations to Jon, so he could go to the notary public, more like a Justice of the Peace there, and request permission to marry the foreigner.  George waited anxiously for months to hear if their application would be accepted.

“You will come immediately when we have permission and make the marriage?” Jon asked.

“No, Jon, I must ask for time off work.  I will come as soon as possible,” George assured Jon.

From April until late summer, George and Jon waited and chatted like nervous kids.  Finally in August Jon sent a message that they would get married on the 15th.

“No,” the startled George replied.  “I can not get there so quickly.”  They decided on September 2 and the arrangements were made.  George would fly to South America again.

On the first day of the trip, George took Jon shopping for clothes and rings for the wedding.  On the next day, they got married and on the third day, they explored the neighborhood around their hotel.  George headed home on the fourth day.

Road to the airport

Upon his return, George and Jon started the long process to get a spouse visa.  They were surprised to learn that after the long and expensive process, there were no guarantees Jon would actually get the visa.

Many documents for Immigration and then for the State Department were required.  After that, documents had to be presented to the embassy in South America.  Speed was not the government’s way.

After the marriage was done and the process for immigration was well underway, George finally decided to tell someone about it. So he called on his friend Arthur to meet him at the local bar and grill.

As George detailed the story, Arthur sat quietly with the most incredulous look on his face.  When George was finally done with his story, Arthur shook his head and said, “Are you crazy?”

“Well, maybe” George replied rather sheepishly.

“Why didn’t you tell me about this before you ran down there and got married, especially since you were waiting for months to get permission?” Arthur asked.

“Because you would have told me then I was crazy and I shouldn’t do it.”

“You’re right, that’s exactly what I would have said.” Arthur blurted out with a tone somewhere between firmness and annoyance.  He kept shaking his head and looking at George as if he had done the dumbest thing in his fifty-something years.

“We discussed the matter at length.  He will help me and be a good roommate.  We have a deal.”

“A deal?” Arthur asked.

“Yeah, isn’t marriage really a deal between two people about friendship and living together?” George asked as if he wasn’t too sure.

Arthur had a doubting look that George understood.  Then he asked George, “Don’t you think this young man is going to leave you once he gets to America and meets other people?”

George’s eyes narrowed as he gave the matter serious thought.  He placed his right hand over his mouth and rubbed the left side of his face with his fingertips.  After almost a minute, he removed the hand from his face, smiled a little, and said, “No.  Of course not.”

Then Arthur laughed, but only a little.

Next week, Jon’s view of the story: THE PROMISE OF LOVE, The Reality
Previously, in order: I LOVE YOU (No, You Don’t)
A SOUTH AMERICAN LOVE, A Romantic Player

A SOUTH AMERICAN LOVE – RICH PASCHALL

A Romantic Player, by Rich Paschall


Let’s face it, Jon was a bit of a player.  In fact, he felt he had to be.  How else was a poor boy to get by in the world?  He had tried to make it in other ways.  Now he had to expand his possibilities in any way he could.  He was looking for a way up and out and the present circumstance did not provide it.

By the time Jon had reached his late teens, he decided he must move out of the small South American town where poverty was the only way of life.  He dreamed of the big city and when he got his chance to join an acrobatic troupe based in one of the largest cities. He was off.  High in the tropical mountains was a city of millions of people and Jon would join the many and hope for a better life.

A move to the city

A move to the city

He could not afford a place in the city, actually, so he took a small apartment in a poor suburb.  He kept the place neat and clean so that he could enjoy his few possessions in pleasant surroundings.  Jon trained and exercised daily for his job.  The troupe performed exhibitions and entered competitions.   Sometimes there was money, but for some competitions, there was nothing.

With his youthful good looks and confidence, Jon signed up with a modeling agency.  There was little placement for fashion models, but with his cute face and athletic body, they were sure they could get Jon into a certain type of modeling and even film career.  Jon was stunned at the suggestion and refused the work.  The agency encouraged him to come back if he ever changed his mind.

Up on the roof

Up on the roof

While standing on the roof of his apartment building and looking down on the rooftops and poor people below, Jon got an idea.  He had to meet new people.  He had a phone and could easily steal WiFi from inside his apartment, so he decided to meet people and make friends from other areas, even other countries.  Since he thought the United States might be a good place, he decided to try to improve his little English and meet Americans.  Jon charmed his way into many lives under the guise of trying to learn the language.  He was really trying to find friends.

When there were some extra pesos in his pocket, Jon went to an area in the city that was frequented by tourists from other parts of the country and as well as “gringos.” Sometimes Jon went alone, sometimes with friends.  They would take a small table or sit at the bar in a popular nightspot.  There the young and handsome men would accept drinks from older men or women tourists.  Sometimes they would get an offer to go back to a hotel for the evening.  Jon liked the free drinks but declined the extra opportunity.  None of the people were right for him.  He did not want a one night stand, no matter what the offer.

Trolling for "friends"

Trolling for “friends”

While “borrowing” his internet connection from a neighbor, Jon started to become good friends with a few people he met online.  One stood out for Jon because he seemed to take a genuine interest in him as a person.  Jon talked with George about everything.  When chatting online Jon would use a program that would translate messages as they came in.  It is true it was not helping Jon learn English, but he did make more friends through faster communication.

George seemed special to Jon.  He told him all about the city where he lived.  He talked about his job and life.  He asked Jon about his life, his job, and his interests.  No one else wanted to know anything about Jon like George did.   Soon Jon wanted to use something other than the language site to communicate.

“Can we use Skype or Messenger or something else?”  And they did.  They followed each other on Facebook and called on Messenger.

“Send me the camera, George.”

“What do you mean?’

“I want to see you.  I want to see where you live.”

So they made virtual visits until one-day things changed.  Opportunity for Jon was at hand.  George had a vacation to use and nowhere to go.

“Come to me, George.  I want to see you.  Please.  I like you so much.  Please.”

After a few days of pleading, George was hooked and scheduled a visit to a continent he never dreamed of traveling to.

When George arrived as promised, Jon did not seem to notice, or at least not to care, that George was much older.  They went around town like tourists and had a good time seeing the sites by themselves one night, and with some of Jon’s friends the next.  They were both pleased with the country, the city, and with themselves.

Seeing the nightlife

Seeing the nightlife

Jon took advantage of the situation by offering to cook their meals rather than go to expensive restaurants.  Of course, they had to go to the markets where Jon made sure to get extra dry goods and fresh meats to last past George’s visit.  It was OK with George, even though he paid for it all.  He recognized what Jon was doing, but buying extra food for Jon was certainly cheaper than eating out every meal.  It was a win-win according to George.

When the brief visit was over, and George was at the airport, Jon cornered him down a hallway and told him that he loved him and thanked him for coming.  Then Jon looked around to be sure no one was watching before kissing him.  George was more than a bit surprised.

The next day Jon met with a favorite girlfriend, Vanessa.  She asked Jon about the visit of the stranger from America.

“He is very nice,” Jon told her.  “I think I will marry him.”

Vanessa looked at him as if she did not understand at first.  Finally, she spoke.

“What?”

Related: For George’s side of the story, see “I LOVE YOU (No, You Don’t)
Next up: A SOUTH AMERICAN PROPOSAL

I LOVE YOU – RICH PASCHALL

No, You Don’t, by Rich Paschall


In his early adult life, George was a rather active young man.  He kept a moderate social schedule.  He met with friends, did a little volunteer work, and even joined a bowling team for a few years.  As the years wore on, George became less active, saw less of his friends, and was mostly invisible to the neighborhood.

As he passed fifty years of age, he kept to himself and seldom visited friends and family.  There was little family left actually, and the cousins seemed to have forgotten about old George.  This is not to say that George was totally inactive, for that was not the case at all.  He did a lot of maintenance on the old house.  He spent plenty of time doing gardening in the spring and summer.  He even tried to learn a new language online.

He signed up for a language site that had a social component.  On the site, you could help someone learn your language and someone else could help you learn theirs.  The site gave learners the opportunity to ask others for a chat in the language they were learning.  Since this was all anonymous, you could decline to chat.

George was not bold enough to ask anyone to chat with him live, but others contacted him when they saw an English speaker on-line and he would always accept.  Some visitors came and went quickly but a few became friends as George explained life in his city and heard about theirs.  It was all very exciting for the older, single gentleman to be talking with young people around the world.  George had a friend in France, Egypt, Russia, and Brazil.  He also had a friend in another South American country who liked George a lot.

In South America

In South America

Soon George and Jonathon were friends on Facebook and talking on Messenger and Skype.  They chatted about their countries, cities, jobs.  After a while, they were talking every day, even if only briefly.  Both loved the attention they were getting from the other.

When they were nearing the end of a year of friendship in December, George was surprised to learn he could not roll over his remaining four vacation days to the following year.  Jon, of course, felt that George should come to South America and spend some time with him.  Jon was not originally from the big city where he lived, so he had few friends and no family there.  He was excited at the thought that George would visit.

Aside from never having met Jon in person, George felt that the 30 year age difference would mean they would soon be bored with one another.  Besides, George never had a desire to go to South America or just about any place else any longer.  But Jon was persistent and George decided to be adventurous.

True to his word, Jon was waiting at the airport.  He greeted George like a long-lost friend.  He spent every minute with him for four days.  They traveled around the city like tourists.  They spent an evening in the street watching an important soccer match and celebrating with the locals.  They spent another evening at something that was like a Christmas market.  There they had local beer and too much guava liquor, frequently ordered by one of Jon’s friends.

An impulsive visit to South America

An impulsive visit to South America

The weather was perfect the entire time. Jon was nicer than George could ever imagine.  He was a good cook an excellent host.  The last-minute vacation was one of the best ever.

Upon his return home, Jon called or wrote every day.  George thought that when they met in person Jon would see that he was a lot older and the friendship would die down, but in truth, the opposite happened.  Jon’s enthusiasm for the impulsive visit did not wane.

Not knowing what to make of this friendship, George called on Arthur, an old friend, to discuss the matter.  They met at a local inn and George proceeded to explain the whole story.  He told how they met, how the friendship developed over the year, and that he impulsively went to visit.  George had never mentioned Jon to anyone before.  Now he was telling the entire history.

“By the way,” George said, “he does not want me to mention that we met on the internet because people might get the wrong idea.”

“What idea is that?” Arthur asked.

“I don’t know,” George exclaimed.

“So what’s the problem?” Arthur wanted to know after listening to over 45 minutes about some South American guy he had never met or seen.

“He calls every day or leaves a message to say he loves me and misses me!”

“So?”

“He wants to come here and be with me.  He says he will be my prince.”

“Oh,” Arthur responded as if the light bulb just went on.

George went on to detail his responses.  “I explained I was not rich and he would have to get a job.  Despite my efforts, his English still sucks and he would have to improve.  The weather here is very different from his homeland, and he knows no one else here”

“What does he say to all these points,” Arthur inquired.

“I love you!  What kind of response is that?  Besides, I am too old for him, but he just says we will be together as long as God wills.”  George took a deep breath and continued

“So, I told him he just says that because he wants to come to America.  Since I like him very much I offered that he could come and stay and I would introduce him around and take him to places where he can meet other young people.”

“And?” Arthur prompted.

“And he said he does not want to meet others, he just wants to be with me.  I don’t know what’s wrong with the young man.”

“There is one distinct possibility,” Arthur said with a knowing tone to his comment.

“What?”

“He really loves you,” Arthur said simply.

George looked at him as if he did not understand the words Arthur just said.  After a long pause, George finally spoke.

“What?”

Next week: Jon’s side of the story.

ONCE UPON A TIME – Marilyn Armstrong

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Isn’t this how all fairy tales begin?

Once upon a time in a faraway land, there lived …

  • A gnome.
  • A princess.
  • A prince.
  • A piglet.
  • A guy with a secret.
  • An orphan child with a unicorn.
  • A king or a queen.
  • A shepherd.
  • A knight with a broken sword.
  • A hobbit.
  • A wizard.
  • An ordinary woman living an ordinary life doing perfectly ordinary things.

They all shared a common thing, that life gave them a path to follow. That path led to adventure. And something special.

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They took the path shown them. What they found along the way made some of them rich. Others found great happiness, with or without love (or wealth). Others found a destiny more strange than they imagined, occasionally with the power to let them accomplish great things. Regardless, for each, the traveling and excitement eventually ended.

After which, the high and mighty — as well as the smallest and least important — lived happily ever after. Except for …

THE CAT CAME BACK – Marilyn Armstrong

My bowl of chicken soup was sitting on the kitchen table. It had been quite a while since I nuked it and it was probably barely tepid at this point.


Probably I should nuke it again, though if it had ever contained anything other than artificial flavoring and salt, nuking it would surely finish it off.

Nonetheless, I was disinclined to touch my soup. In fact, I didn’t want to go anywhere near it. I was standing just a little bit left of the bowl. I was still wrapped in a damp beach towel while my sandy, soggy bathing suit lay in a wet lump on the bathroom floor. I promised myself I’d go wash it out any minute.

Except for the cat. The toothy cat’s grin was hanging in the air.

The Cheshire Cat was back. His grin was hanging in the air in my kitchen. Any minute now his body would show up too.

He wanted my soup.

LATE LUNCH

The Old Ball Team, by Rich Paschall


When they started the monthly get-together it was almost 15 years earlier.  There were a dozen of them then, and two of the “boys” had already retired.  They had all known each other since childhood and were within a few years of one another in age.  They went to the same park as kids and most played on the same teams.

They had decided years ago to meet once a month for dinner, so they could be sure to see one another regularly.  Over the years dinner changed to lunch, as some of them did not want to drive or be out after dark.  The sessions remained as lively as ever.  It seemed none lost their boyhood personalities.

With the passage of time, the group had dwindled in size.  While the first ten years saw no loss of participation, recent years were not kind to the group.  Three had passed away and another three were no longer well enough to attend.  One just seemed to disappear.  No one could ever say what happened to Roger, although a few tried hard to find out.

nationals in DC baseball

The meeting was now on the first Tuesday of the month at 1 o’clock.  Most of the lunch crowd was gone from the Open Flame Restaurant by then and the old guys could sit around and reminisce for as long as they wanted.  Today they wanted to hang on just a little longer.

Raymond had arrived right on time which was his way all through life.  Like the others, Ray was retired now.  Unlike the others, he carried a secret with him he would not tell, even to his best friends.

Bob came with Ray.  He was no longer able to drive and in fact, needed a good deal of help to get in and out of Ray’s car.  Ray always allowed enough time for Bob, so that they could walk slowly together and get in and out of the house, the car, and the restaurant safely.   To Ray, Bob was like a rock, the anchor of the team.  Now Ray was Bob’s rock of support.  There was a certain irony in that, and Bob would never know it.

Frank still worked a little.  It is not really that he wanted to do it, but he could not shake free of some business obligations he had over the years.  He did not need the money and tried to steer any business to someone else.  If you asked, Frank would tell you he was retired.

Bill was always late.  Everyone would have been surprised if he had been on time.  He maintained an active life and was always finding more to do than he had time.  This seemed to keep Bill healthy and robust.  Perhaps he was the only one of the remaining members in such good shape.

Without any doubt at all, Jerry was the talkative one of the bunch.  If others wanted to tell a story or share some news, they had better do it before Jerry showed up.  He was likely to dominate the conversation from the time he arrived until the time the check came.  It was guaranteed that Jerry would tell his favorites stories, although all of these guys knew them just as well as Jerry.  In fact, one or more of them probably participated in whatever episode he was recalling.

At every meeting, Jerry was sure to get around to the championship baseball game.  “What were we Bob, 12 or 13?  What a summer that was!  I remember when Bob dove for that ball in the last inning.  If that got through the infield we were screwed.  Raymond was so damn slow out there in left field.”  They all would laugh, even Ray.

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Usually, the boys would be planning to leave around two, but they told stories and laughed their way past 2:30 in the afternoon.  Finally, Ray called for the check.  Over the objections of the others, Ray paid the bill. They had always split the check evenly.  No one ever paid for everyone, but Ray was a diplomat and a businessman and knew how to get his way.  The matter was settled.

They all made it out into the warm spring day together and stood on the sidewalk for a moment.  Raymond gave them all a long hard look but said nothing.  He knew Bob could not come out any longer.  Bob’s wife had strongly objected to Raymond continuing to take him to lunch.  This would be the last time, for sure.  Raymond was dying of cancer but kept it to himself.  He looked well enough, so the others just did not know.

As the two walked to Raymond’s car nearby, the others said goodbye to Frank.  It seems that Frank’s wife had been insisting that they move to Michigan to be nearer to the kids and grandkids.  Since Frank was the practical one of the group, he also realized it was better to have a safety net of younger people nearby if the need should ever arise.  These old guys may have promised to always be there for one another, but that now came with the heavy reality that it just could not be so.

As Frank wandered off in the other direction, Bill and Jerry stood looking at one another and big, knowing smiles came across their faces.  Nothing more had to be said.  It was all right there before them. Words, tears, hugs would have been out of character.

Finally, Jerry left Bill with the same words he issued for years, “I’ll see you at the next game.  I’ve got the ball and gloves, you bring the bats.”

“OK, Captain,” Bill said and walked away.

COMRADE LEADER AND THE BLOGSTERS – Rich Paschall

A SERENDIPITY Fractured Spy Tale, by Rich Paschall

It was a long hall with high, vaulted ceilings, elegantly appointed with gold-leaf trim. The walls were appropriately red on the upper two thirds, with an elegant dark cherry wood wainscoting below. Down the middle of the hall ran a long table made of the finest dark wood. It could seat 20 comrades along each side. The room was empty now, except for the big man seated at the head of the table.

He was patiently waiting in the Great Hall of the Central Committee. The room was quiet and serene, just like the meetings presided over by the big man. As he sat admiring a portrait of himself, Comrade Number Eight entered the room and walked to the front of the hall. Number Eight stood at attention and waited to be acknowledged.

“Report!” ordered the man at the head of the table.

“Comrade Leader,” Number Eight began. “I am pleased to report the success of our blog writers in foreign lands. Already today, six more articles have been posted. They are all well received, especially the ones we have designated as coming from ‘news’ sites.”

“What is the most popular story you have planted recently?” the Leader inquired.

“Comrade Leader, we have reported that the main opponent of our appointed foreign leader is running a scandalous sex ring from the back of a Taco truck.”

The Leader of the Federation looks a bit confused at this.  “Taco Truck? What do you mean?”

“Comrade Leader…” said Number Eight hesitantly. All reports began by addressing “Comrade Leader” but from there he was not sure how to proceed on this one.

“This is a truck that travels around the streets selling food. Tacos, Tortas, Burritos.”

“And the political opponent runs a ‘sex ring’ from such a truck?”

“Yes, Comrade Leader.”

“And the people of that nation believe this story?”

“Oh yes, Comrade Leader. We placed the story on several blogs and it was picked up and distributed by other blog sites. It has even been run by some news stations.  It has many ‘shares’ and ‘likes’ on social media. It is being spread all around the country.”

At that. the Big Man, Head Mister of all the Misters on the Central Committee, stared at Number Eight with the most incredulous look Comrade Leader had ever given anyone. After a brief moment, he roared with laughter.  He was laughing so hard he nearly fell out of his high backed leather chair. Number Eight felt he could finally relax and laughed a little bit too.

“Have you designated a particular truck?” the important man wanted to know.

“No sir, Comrade Leader, sir. There are many of these trucks in the big cities and we wish to throw suspicion on all of them. With a little more prodding, we think the people will start attacking some of them.”

The leader laughed some more.

“Next week, Comrade Leader, we are going to have our asset speculate that these trucks are all run by illegal aliens and should be shut down. He will try to make a link between the illegals, his opponent and the sex ring. They are all selling prostitutes to fund the political campaign against our appointed one.”

“Stop, you’re killing me,” the boss man said as he was laughing so hard his sides began to hurt. “This is the funniest thing I have heard in years. Your team has done excellent work and brought me great joy. You will receive the People’s Medal for your achievement.”

“Thank You, Comrade Leader. I am very… (pause) pleased… that you are… (pause) pleased… sir” Number Eight puffed out his chest and stood in the Great Hall with a large smile on his face. It would not last long.

“Now, Number Eight, tell me how our special agents, Boris and Natasha, are doing on their secret mission.”

Number Eight looked down at the carpet that covered the floor beneath his feet. He did not know how to explain what was happening.

“I am sorry to say, Comrade Leader, that our operatives in the foreign land have not yet completed their assignment. We still have high hopes that they will succeed soon.”

“What has been the problem for them so far?” the leader of Covert Operations wanted to know.

“Sir, at every turn in the road they have been thwarted by two other agents who seem to be of superior intelligence.”

“I see, have you identified these other agents? We must deal with them severely.”

“No, Comrade Leader, but we have learned their code names, ‘Moose’ and ‘Squirrel.'”

The big man nodded his head knowingly as if he had encountered these crafty beasts before.

True patriots — American Heroes!

THE SURPRISING CHRISTMAS – Rich Paschall

A family plus one holiday tale

by Richard Paschall

72-Christmas Eve_013Kyle was coming home for Christmas. He was bringing with him his college roommate. The boys met during freshman year and became fast friends. Somehow they maneuvered the dorm manager into assigning them to be roommates for sophomore year. There was no one on earth Kyle would rather spend time with than Michael.

So, he was glad Michael agreed to come to dinner on Christmas Eve. This was in exchange for Kyle agreeing to go to Michael’s parents’ house on Christmas day for dinner. Michael was going to make a big announcement to his parents and of course Kyle had to be there.

Kyle’s father had slipped into a den on the east side of the house. All of the family noise was a bit more than his reserved nature could take. Kyle’s sister, Mary, who was 8 years younger than Kyle, was louder than usual, and no matter how many times grandma told Mary to “quiet down,” things didn’t get quieter.

The threat of Christmas carols by Mary and Uncle Roy was enough to drive dad into the den. There, he immediately made haste to the bar where a glass of sherry seemed to be in order. Dad only drank a sherry on special occasions and this certainly was one of them.

It was dark now and the neighbors across the street had turned on their Christmas lights. Almost everyone on the block had a nice display so the street was well-lit. Kyle’s dad was drawn to the window to see the lights, look at the gentle snow flurries and enjoy a moment of peace.

As he stood there sipping his sherry and waiting for Kyle to appear, he finally spotted his only son walking quickly down the street with another young man right behind. As they got to the walkway that led up to the house they stopped to exchange a few words. Then a sight took dad’s wondering eyes totally by surprise. Kyle kissed the other boy. It was not a short kiss, but long and passionate which they both seemed to enjoy.

Soon Kyle rang the doorbell just to announce their arrival before he put his key in the lock and opened the door. Off the entranceway on the left was a door to the den. Kyle’s father was standing in the doorway just staring at the two. Kyle’s mom came through a big archway on the right that led to the living room. Mary was close behind and eager to see her brother and his friend. Uncle Roy and grandma did not vacate their seats. They knew the rest would join them soon.

First Kyle walked over to his father and said, “Dad this is my room-mate, Michael.” The roommate held out his hand and the father shook it. “I am pleased to meet you, sir. Kyle says such wonderful things about the family.”

Kyle’s dad just sort of nodded at that, while studying this stranger in his home. The silence was out of character for the head of the household and a bit of a surprise to everyone except Michael, and that is only because Michael did not know him.

Then Kyle introduced Michael to his mother and his “little brat sister” Mary. Michael held out his hand to each in turn but the little brat held out her hand instead as if he was supposed to take it and kiss it, so he did and she squealed and ran from the room. At that Kyle’s mom offered to introduce Michael to the others. Kyle’s father then announced to all, “We will join you in a moment.”

With a more serious tone, father said, “Kyle, would you step in here for a moment, please?” This was not a question but rather a command of the type Kyle knew was not good. As the father retreated into the room Kyle followed. Before turning around dad said, “Close the door.”

last snow low contrast winter

Kyle only took a few short steps before his father turned around. He looked at him as if he had never seen him before. It was the strangest look Kyle had ever seen from his father. “Kyle, is there something you should be telling me?” the “official business” dad said in an odd businesslike tone. Kyle figured it was some sort of trick question but knew he should answer it anyway.

“No, dad. I don’t think so.” This clearly was the wrong answer. His dad did not say a thing but his body language spoke volumes and Kyle became as nervous as a first-grader who has been caught stealing Oreos from the kitchen. Now the master of the den, the commander of the car keys and the payer of his tuition walked slowly to the window, looked around the outside and turned to Kyle.

“You know, son, that there is a great view of the neighborhood from this window. You can see all of the beautiful Christmas displays across the street. You can see a nice Christmas snow flurry. You can see everyone walking down the sidewalk and turning up the walkway toward the house.” At that Kyle’s father fixed his sights squarely on Kyle and said, “So now is there anything you should tell me?”

Kyle stood motionless as his dad threw a stare at him that went right through and hit the door behind. It took Kyle almost an entire minute before he realized what his father had seen from the window of the den. All the while, that whole long minute of time, Kyle’s father stood there waiting.

Uxb Common Christmas Poster

Kyle wanted to begin “I’m sorry dad…,” but nothing came out of his mouth. He was so nervous and so afraid of his father’s reaction that he could say nothing. It is not that he wanted to be silent, he just couldn’t speak. Fear of saying the wrong thing paralyzed his tongue for the moment. Finally, Kyle’s father just nodded that same nod he gave Michael when he was introduced, walked around Kyle, opened the door and walked across the foyer to the living room.

Kyle was knocked off his spot when his mother’s voice came floating into the room. “Kyle, don’t be rude. Come join your guest.” Kyle shuffled across the hall and searched around the room for Michael. He did not look at anyone else as his eyes avoided everyone but Michael. At that moment, with a room full of family, he had no way of telling his mate that he needed a hug and he thought he might need to cry. After a little small talk by grandma and Uncle Roy, Kyle’s mom asked them all to go to the dining room. Christmas Eve dinner was ready.

“Michael, you sit right there next to Kyle and Kyle will sit next to me. I have this end of the table and Kyle’s father will carve things up at that end of the table. Uncle Roy will be there next to you and grandma and Mary will be on the other side.” At that, the little brat sister ran around the table and dropped herself on the chair opposite Kyle. She looked at him with a smirk as if she knew his little secret and was going to blurt it out if he did not stop calling her a brat.

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Everyone sat in silence until Kyle’s mother looked down the length of the table and said to her husband. “Sweetheart, will you say grace for us?” There was a long, awkward pause before he said, “No. Tonight Kyle will lead the prayer.”

At that instant, Kyle prayed that something, anything that made sense would come out of his mouth. All eyes were on him as he began, “Bless us, oh Lord…” The words that fell out of Kyle’s mouth were for blessing and thanksgiving, but in his heart, he was praying for acceptance.

That became the only gift he truly wanted for Christmas this year.

SEVEN GOOD READS – Rich Paschall

Books I Remember, by Rich Paschall

Recently a friend posted this to my facebook feed:

I have accepted the challenge from (a friend) to post the cover of 7 books I love. The challenge is one cover a day for 7 days. No explanations, no reviews, just the cover. Let’s promote literacy! Each day I will ask one friend to take up the challenge. Today on day 7 I nominate Rich Paschall.

My first reaction was to take a pass. I was thinking that I did not have the time for it. After looking over my friend’s choices for the week, however, I decided to give it a go. After all, I did not have to read anything new. I just needed to copy the text above, post the cover of a book and move on. I resisted all temptation at any explanation or responses to comments.

My plan was to list books that were memorable to me. The first that popped into my head would do. There was to be no drawing up lists and then picking favorites. I just posted them as they came to me. This was a little harder as I got to the end, but not for reasons you might expect.

Of all the books you have read in a lifetime that you thought were memorable, which would you pick? Which ones do you love, really love? I will give you the choices I posted on facebook, but with a few lines on each. If you have not read them, you might want to give them a chance. You don’t have to buy any. If you can not find them for free online, there are those old buildings known as libraries. Ours even has digital versions of books you can “check out” online.

Day 1.

A Separate Peace by John Knowles. I likely read this as a teenager, or perhaps early twenties. It was popular for high school and college classes at one time. At its core, it is a coming of age story. It shows the conflict between two close friends who have very different personalities. Their differences would naturally lend to disputes, as one drags the other along on his adventures. There was a fine movie version in 1972 for which Knowles worked on the screenplay.

Day 2.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. You may be familiar with the excellent movie starring Gregory Peck. The American Film Institute ranks it as one of the best films ever made. Peck won the Oscar. Even though it is a faithful adaptation, the book will offer you even more. It is a fascinating read dealing with complex and socially charged issues. You likely will not be able to put it down, even if you know where the story is headed.

Day 3.

The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway. If you know anything about Hemingway’s life, you know you can find a bit of him in all his stories. That he would know and understand the toils of the old fisherman should be a given. The Pulitzer Prize-winning short novel will take you out to sea for the struggle. Like many great works of literature this also has a movie treatment.  Spencer Tracy gives a powerful performance as the aging fisherman.

Day 4.

Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. The novel is long (760 pages) and rather complex. The political and social issues it tends to explore are likely best understood in light of his several earlier works. I had, in fact, read all of Pynchon’s work up to this point before venturing into the satiric novel regarding history and science.

Harry Potter library books

Day 5.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. You have to admit, it is the book that started the world reading books on paper again. If you are one of the few who skipped this fandom, I urge you to read it. The works are not just for young people, but for all who love fantasy and adventure. This is the first of 7 novels.

Here it got a little tricky. With only two left to post I started thinking of many possibilities. I wanted to go with “A Clockwork Orange” next. I found it a fascinating read in an uncomfortable sort of way. There was also “In The Flesh.” It’s the sensational Hollywood autobiography of poet Gavin Dillard that was also a bit uncomfortable. It named, or tried to avoid naming, some well-known celebrities on the seedy side of a sometimes seedy entertainment business. There were also a number of well-known classics to consider…but I digress. And that is oddly the point of the next choice.

Day 6.

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne. The amusing novel is told through a series of digressions and diversions. The reader must pay close attention in order to know exactly where he is at in the story. In the process, you learn little about Tristram as he goes off on tangents about family, friends, and others. The structure of the lengthy work may be due in part to being published in 9 volumes over an 8 year period.

Day 7.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. The title refers to “the temperature at which book paper catches fire and burns …” The novel deals with the issues of censorship and book burning and is set at some point in the future. In this story, the “fireman’s” job is to burn any books that are found. It is an effort to keep people from knowledge.

While some of these have excellent movie adaptations, no film treatment can match the magic of the books themselves.

See also: How Harry Potter Changed The World.”

 

THANKS, NOW LEAVE – Rich Paschall

Not Welcome Anymore, by Rich Paschall

Roger was a busy guy.  In recent months he absolutely could not find time to fit one more thing into his schedule.  The local pastor, Jared, was even busier and usually kept to a tight schedule.  His time was parceled out like the hosts he distributed on Sunday.  So it was a bit of a surprise when he dropped an email on Roger asking to meet.  “Perhaps we can get together for coffee on Thursday afternoon or Saturday morning,” the message read.  Roger picked Saturday.

When Roger turned 60 he had promised himself there would be no more big projects.  He felt he was done with community organizing, large social events, and big family gatherings.  “All the work should be done by someone else,” he thought.  But then there always seemed to be another great idea and that meant “one last hurrah.”

When a long time and dedicated school worker was to be honored, many alumni were thrilled at the idea.  In fact, they wanted to put on a special tribute and all got together to discuss the matter.  Soon after Roger was handing the proposed event to the pastor, who seemed a bit skeptical at first, but eventually supported the plan.

It's really a one way street.

It’s really a one way street.

The pastor was young and ambitious, as pastors go.  He seemed to like everyone and at first, everyone liked him.  He wanted to make an impact on the parish and if you could help him with that, he was your friend.  Soon he saw Roger and Roger’s friends as a path to increased alumni involvement and successful events.  He did not help organize in any way, but he did not hinder the progress.  For the alumni, it seemed like a great thing.  The pastor was letting them do their tribute the way they believed was appropriate.

On the other hand, the pastor’s staff was not a bit enthusiastic.  The school administration was already overburdened with projects and fund-raisers.  The grade school principal was also running the high school, or neglecting it, depending on where you heard it.  Teamwork was only something written on the gymnasium wall.  It was not practiced by those who loved to point it out.  They wanted to run the upcoming honor as a small event as they had done for others in the past.  They were not happy to share the event with “outsiders,” that is, former students.

The alumni crew worked diligently.  They looked for every way to promote the big event and make it a success.  They had been warned not to count on the school administration to do their part, but they trusted them to do what they said they would do.  When the administration looked overwhelmed at a request, the alumni chairmen would advise, “Just say no if it is too much.” Unfortunately, they were already in the habit of promising what they could not deliver.

When the big event was held, the school’s part was chaotic and ran behind schedule.  The alumni tribute was forced to start late, but went well and was loved by those in attendance.  In fact, it was the most well attended alumni event held in decades.  It would certainly be the last to draw a crowd.

When the reverend contacted Roger in the week that followed the celebration, Roger knew what the topic of conversation would be.  Since they had been friends from before the time Jared came back to be pastor, Roger thought they would have a meaningful conversation.

On the day of their coffee talk, it was cold and damp, rather like the expression on the pastor’s face.  He only put on a smile when a parishioner recognized him in the small coffee shop and came over to say “hello.” Roger and Jared sat in two large chairs with a small table in between.  Jared started.

“I was rather disappointed in the event last Saturday.  It did not go as planned,” Jared said with a bit of a scowl.  “I do not like things like that in my parish.”

Roger tried to explain what happened and how it happened and why it happened the way that it did.  Jared was not interested.  His purpose seemed to be to place blame and absolve his staff of any wrong doing.  “I hold you personally responsible because you brought the plan to me.  I do not care about co-chairmen or committee members or school administrators.  I blame you.”

It would be an understatement to say that Roger was in a state of bewilderment for almost an hour as the former friend declared that Roger was not to be involved in running any more events, in fact, “You are not welcome at any school events.  I will not tolerate anything that might embarrass me in the slightest way.”  Roger was not sure how anything that did not go quite right could embarrass someone who had no hand in running the event.

Cold, grey day

When Jared was done with his coffee, he advised Roger he could still come to services on Sunday.  Roger thought, “And I am still welcome to give to the collection,” but he did not say it out loud. He watched Jared walk out into the cold, grey day which was a perfect match for his attitude.

Roger only went back to the church one more time.  He came on Christmas to read as previously scheduled.  He wished his fellow readers, and friends well but said nothing about moving on.

A former classmate told Roger that her brother had decided to go to a different parish.  “The pastor there is warm and welcoming.  It’s something they forgot here.”  Roger smiled and nodded, but said nothing.  He left the church and walked out into the pleasant Christmas weather.  He thought of the irony of the assistant who invited him to come back home to the church 15 years earlier and the pastor who invited him to leave, since they were the same person.

THE FIFTY PERCENTERS – Rich Paschall

Resistance, a short story by Rich Paschall

After Durward Tower narrowly won his election to the Presidency late in the century, he declared that he had a landslide victory. It was a mandate by the people to make big changes needed by the country. The wealthy leaders of the Congress and of big business helped to spread this myth. It was to their economic advantage to do so.

The many appointments to the courts gave Tower supreme control of the judiciary. Many were not actually qualified for their roles, but they would support any case for which Tower had an interest.

Both houses of the legislature also bowed to the whims and wishes of the so-called Leader. The minority party had little to say and much less money to say it. By the midterm elections, Durward Tower considered himself the Supreme Leader of the land.

All during his time in office, Tower continued to hold campaign style rallies. He loved the cheers of the people, and they seemed to love him and his policies. Many did not realize that his policies were against their best interests.

“We have great ideas for the country,” Tower told his rallies. “These are the best ideas that anyone has ever had in this office. That is because I am the smartest person ever to hold this office. Trust me on this, folks.”

And they did trust him. Many did, anyway. A few were quite skeptical. When Tower started pushing his extreme policies, their suspicions were confirmed.

The biggest change came in the tax code, which then led to changes in the voting laws. Tower had convinced the populace that anyone making less that 100,000 dollars was a drag on the economy and the country. These were the people that were taking the money of the social services and they must be made to pay. He decreed that they should pay a 50 per cent income tax for being such failures. Those making less than 11,000 were only asked to pay 10 per cent.  This was to show the people that Tower was a caring humanitarian. The Legislature approved of this. This new class of people were referred to as the 50 percenters.

Sometimes enough is not enough

Citizens making between 100,000 and one billion had a graduated tax as before. These were the 100 percenters, and Tower often congratulated them for their contributions to society and to his campaigns.

According to the fearless leader, those making a billion dollars or more must be rewarded for their enormous contributions to society. “Without these people,” Tower would say, “there would be no jobs. There would be no progress. There would be no country. Trust me folks, these people must be encouraged to do more and that can only be done with tax cuts.” Durward Tower felt that billionaires should only pay ten per cent. He told everyone that this was a lot of money and more than anyone else was paying.

It was therefore declared that the 50 percenters should only have a 50 percent vote. With each one having only half a vote, their power was greatly diminished. The one hundred percenters kept to one vote per person. The billionaire class quickly became know as the two hundred percenters, as each one got 2 votes in each election.

“You all know that the country must reward the billionaire class for their hard work. They deserve more votes. They contribute so much more than some of those pathetic losers in the 50 percenters.” Ironically, most of the people that cheered this at the rallies were themselves 50 percenters.

Billie Saunders and Robert Wright were among those that felt the majority were being mistreated by Tower and followers. They decided to form a resistance. Saunders held his own rallies to tell the people about the gross inequities. Wright took to social media to spread the word. He made videos and posted them to various platforms. When the resistance gained some momentum and the protests began to grow, Tower became angry.

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He had his Congress pass the Patriotic Actions law. Basically, it stated that anyone who spoke out against the 50 percenters law was to be considered a traitor to the country. Any traitor was to be imprisoned for a lengthy period. Tower once again took to the rallies to sell his new law.

“People who speak out against the laws of this country are traitors. We have great  ideas for this country. They are the greatest ideas any president has ever had. We can not have any disturbances in public from these bad people. There is only one way to deal with a traitor, and you all know what that is.”

At that the chants began from the audience. “Lock him up, lock him up, lock him up.” When the crowds would erupt with his favorite chants, Tower would take a step back from the podium and survey the crowd with great pleasure. Some thought the look on his face was rather smug, but his followers only saw a patriotic gaze.

In the weeks that followed Saunders was arrested and sent to a detention camp. Wright went underground and kept posting videos and opinion pieces. He formed a resistance of people who tried to hide their identities.

Wright told the Resistance, “We know Tower has tampered with the election. We must get the best computer minds to prove what he has done.”

Meanwhile, Tower kept up his campaign against the Resistance. He used his own social media presence to send out messages to his followers. In one message he treatened to shut down a newspaper that ran an opinion piece written by Wright.

“It’s all lies,” Tower wrote, “printed by that failing paper.”

Wright and the Resistance wondered how they ever got to the place in time where the majority voice did not matter, and one demagogue’s whims became the law of the land. They continued to send out messages about the inequality, calling for people to resist the Durward Tower.